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A closer look at the Samsung ATIV S with Windows Phone 8

We've been so busy around here that we forgot our own Mobile Nations roving reporter Simon Sage managed to get some one on one time with the Samsung ATIV S (see our camera samples from earlier). The ATIV S is headed to Rogers in Canada, among a few other lucky networks (no such luck here in the States, at least so far). 

The video is fun to watch only because you can get to peep how big that 4.8" screen is and how great it looks in AMOLED. Throw in that super thin body, a massive 2300 mAh battery, 32GB of storage, memory expansion and yeah, we're wanting to play with one. It's also interesting to note that you can turn the phone on via the physical Win key--the only Windows Phone 8 device with such a configuration--kudos to Sammy for that one. Too bad we can't think of a way for Nokia or HTC to do the same and keep their slick designs. Can't have it all!

Other than that most of the video is just a tour of Windows Phone 8, which many of you should be familiar with by now.

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Reader comments

A closer look at the Samsung ATIV S with Windows Phone 8

57 Comments

I just really like this device. But why it's not coming state side means another device slips me by

My guess: Samsung is just behind on this release in general. That's why *no one* has released it to my knowledge. So they basically are missing the first-wave of the WP8 launch and will come out...whenever.

Not sure if low priority for them, they're having firmware/stability issues or both.

You would think they would want to jump on the nice wave they have going with the Galaxy III on T-Mo.....makes no sense....

I asked the same question and someone said tmo will release by the end of November. I'll believe when I see.

It's probably delayed because of manufacturing capacity. The phones done but with Samsung selling 30 million GSIII"s in 5 months is causing issues. Do you convert a GSIII line? I would. Whoever sells in the US probably wants a large supply and Samsung just don't have them. I hope they get them soon. Tmo better get it or I'm gonna b slap that girl right off that motorcycle.

I have it on my Omnia7 and love it. This is really one reason Im not getting another HTC, constantly reaching up top of the phone just to unloch the phone is a real pain in the ass, hated it on my HTC Touch HD.
Im glad Nokia has the powerbutton on the side so it will be just as easy to unlock as my Omnia 7.

Too dark to see the phone well, so it's essentially a demo of wp8 os. Only got a glimpse of it at the end of the video. I noticed he says that it is very light. I don't like phone that feels like a piece of plastic. I prefer a sturdier phone. I bet if I sit on it on a cushion, I'll break it.

Anecdotally, my Samsung Focus is the most durable phone ever made, and so I am biased to disagree with your blanket assertions, and suggest that my narrowly derived point of view is superior to yours.

Mine may not be the most durable phone I've owned (but every previous phone were Nokia dumbphones, which were bricks with calling capabilities), but it has held up to 2 years of caseless abuse with minor signs of wear on the plastic, and the screens still in great shape. Looking at specs, the Ativ still weighs more than the Focus or iphone 5 by 20 grams (though it is larger). 
However, both of these are still puny compared to the mass of the 920. 

Agreed had an s2 it is like a Childs toy sent it back after 2 weeks felt too delicate for my clumsy ways.

Could you spare some light ... Could barely see his hand let alone the phone other then when the screen was on

This is by far my favorite of the WP8 launch devices. Large screen, high res, 32 GB w/SD expansion, removable battery, etc. Just wish I could get it for T-Mobile USA.

Agreed, I just don't like the Lumia design, nevermind the fact we only got the 810 aka 820. My HD7 is a 4.3" WVGA. I want an upgrade, not the same thing. The 8X is nice, but they are cheap on storage & no SD slot sux. Plus, I hate non-removable batteries.

I'm on an HD7 as well... Seriously considering an 8xx device to tide me over until more 920 colors arrive in Canada. It's also an upgrade in battery life, software, performance, exclusive apps, camera, (main shooter + FFC) call quality & reception, build quality, and post-purchase support. Not to mention super-sensitive touch screen, Dolby sound, wireless charging and NFC. And though the same size and resolution, the HD7 screen is seriously lackluster... The 810/820 is a REAL upgrade IMO.

Am I the only one who loves this device the more I look at?? Growing over me slowly but surely. Wp is not the same with LCD as oled screens.

I really don't get Samsung. They failed to bring Omnia 7, one of the the three I consider the best wp7 devices I think of, other two being venue pro and hd7. Here we go again, they failed to bring ativ s on Verizon. Why am I not surprised? They lost my money with Omnia 7 and certainly they will not get my money on ativ s again.

Seriously Samsung, get your sh!t together. This phone is the ideal Windows Phone device for many people due to that large screen, the fact it's thin/light, AMOLED screen (to make those tiles pop), and microSD expansion. This phone NEEDS to come to T-Mobile.

I really wish more phones would stick to the physical buttons...every time I touch my old Optimus 7 I wish my Lumia 900 had the same buttons. Capacitive buttons just suck.

Having used iPhones for years before moving to Windows Phone, I loved the physical start button that my Focus Flash had because it let you wake up the device. However I didn't like that Samsung decided to not make it backlit. I like seeing the Windows logo glowing in the dark.

I can't decide between this phone or the 8X as my backup choice should the 920 seem to cumbersome. HTC is more commited but my focus has been so good that I don't feel like leaving Samsung. 

I see Samsung going after a global release for this phone. Unlike the strategy on the past where they just released phones with specific operators. They have had a great experience selling the android phone as Factory Unlocked and actually the high ends support almost all US carrier on 3G. And that is something that they need to do with this one. I had a focus, currently using a focus S I live outside the US and there were not any release of this phone outside of US, any without all the caps and limitations that ATT puts to their phones. So I will be more than happy if I could get an Ativ S Factory unlocked, no logo. It's the best Windows phone 8 handset to look at it. And I like it a lot. I wish they launch it no later than now.

The specs on the Ativ S is horribly wrong on that site.  It says the Ativ S has no dedicated camera button= BS, no 2 stage shutter= BS, no touch AF= BS.  My original Focus has all of these features.  I believe there's a few more BS's in there as well but stopped reading after I found the inconsistencies.  Sounds like they are padding the Lumia 920 to make it a far superior product than it actually is on that site.  

Samsung doesn't care at all about Windows Phone. They're not releasing it in the US because the phone is too similar spec wise to the GS3. They love Android so much that they won't release a phone that would steal it's thunder, even if it's their own.

Hi, thanks for the review!  When I saw it was 18 minutes, long, I was excited - I figured that if you took that much time, you must have dug a little deeper to bring out the features most reviews miss!  But I must admit that it was still a fairly surface look at the phone and operating system, so I was a little disappointed.  However, since you evidently put a lot of work and time into the review, I thought you might appreciate a little candid feedback.  There were a few inaccuracies and missing information in the review that you may want to clear up for your viewers:
 
1)  In regards to the tile sizes available, you stated that previously there were square tiles and small square tiles available but no banner-sized tiles.  This is actually completely reverse.  On WP7, there are square tiles (2x2 size), and a few apps used banner-sized tiles.  The problem was that the user had no way to choose which tile size was used, so almost all tiles were just the regular square.  There was no small square available.  The change in Windows Phone 8 is that the small square tiles are now an option (allowing for MANY more tiles to be visible on the Start screen at once), and the user can now decide between the three size options for true Start screen customization.  
 
2)  In regards to the list of apps, you mentioned that this would not be ideal if you have a lot of apps.  That is something Microsoft already dealt with in Windows Phone 7.  If you add a large amount of apps, the system automatically sections the list by inserting the letters of the alphabet throughout the alphabetized list.  You still scroll through the list as normal, but now you can also touch any of the letters and it will bring up a screen where you can select the letter you want to jump to, and it will take you up or down to that part of the list.  Super fast and easy, and as long as it is still there in WP8, you can search your apps from that screen as well.  This is nice if you don't remember the exact name of the app and don't want to scroll through your whole list.  If you use the app often and need to get to it even faster than these features allow, you just pin it to your Start screen and then you can access it from either place.  While I can't speak for everyone, I personally love this set up and hope Microsoft doesn't change it.  It is one of the biggest reasons I will choose a Windows Phone over an android system any day!  I've tried the interface on many Android devices, and not one of them felt as comfortable or fast or made as much sense to me as the Windows Phone system for scrolling through apps.  The one thing I do wish Microsoft would consider (if they haven't yet) is putting the letters separating each section of the list to the left instead of inline with the app list.  That way, the list would be shorter to scroll through and the letters easier to spot and touch.  Of course, it works just fine the way it is now, too, and I suppose to would leave less room horizontally to display the app titles, plus it would not be as sleek or fluid in appearance.  So they will probably not change that any time soon.
 
3)  Multi-tasking - I suppose this wasn't so much an inaccuracy, but I did have a difference of opinion regarding your review of this feature and wanted to share it here.  Again, I hope Microsoft does NOT change this feature.  I love it!  Yes, you have to scroll more because you only see one or two apps at a time, but really, it takes a second or two - is that such a big deal?  After all, this allows you to not only see WHAT apps are available but also the details open in that app when you last saw it.  I love it because it allows you to do more than simply change between applications.  In fact, while I definitely switch between apps quite often, I more frequently use it to view information from an app without having to actually switch over.  For example, when entering a phone number (perhaps from a website or other application which does not create a phone number link the way that messaging and emailing do), I can access my multi-tasking screen, look at the phone number again without having to actually switch back to that app, and then just touch the phone app or even hit the back button to leave the multi-tasking screen and finish entering the phone number.  Or, imagine that you are sending an email and need to consult, say, a website or office document.  Of course, if you are just repeating what was said there, copy and paste works just fine.  But what if you are not copying it but responding to it or putting it into your own words?  Sure, you could still copy and paste the text to the email, scroll up and down as you type, and then delete the copied text before you send the email, but how much simpler to simply use the multi-tasking screen to periodically view the site or document without having to switch to it!  What a convenient time saver!  Personally, I prefer seeing more detail in each app and having to scroll a little more than seeing more open apps at once but with smaller views, less details, or no details at all.  It would still beat virtually no multi-tasking (which is what Windows Phone 7 had in the beginning), but I would certainly miss this set-up.  Again, I cannot speak for everyone, and I'm sure that there are those out there who will argue my opinion here, but I am also sure that there are many who would agree.  Additionally, having a horizontal scroll system is chronological (making for easily transferring between just two or three apps at a time).  What I mean is, the open apps you've used most recently are on the far right, and the ones opened least recently are at the far left.  So if you are currently working with just two or three apps of the ones that you have open still, popping or viewing between them is so easy!  However, The one thing Microsoft could do is make it so that you can rotate the screen view while in multi-tasking mode; this would shrink each app preview slightly, but not too much, and it would allow a person to theoretically see at least three apps in one screen without scrolling side-to-side.  So evidently, I am not in total disagreement with the reviewer's idea that Microsoft could make a change to this; I just wanted to share why I don't think they should make a significant change to the way it works.  (Of course, as I don't have a Windows Phone 8 device yet, and the reviewer did not attempt to rotate the device in multi-tasking mode during the video, I suppose it is possible that Microsoft could have included this change already and we would not be aware of it.)
 
4)  Finally, one more oversight in the video that I noticed was in the review of the phone's digital keyboard while in landscape (rotated) mode.  The reviewer suggested that the "blank space" to the left of the keyboard is to center it.  Actually, that space is there for a reason and is not in fact as "blank" as it appears.  When in portrait mode, the status bar is located at the top of the screen.  When you rotate the phone, that status bar rotates as well so it is instead on the left side of the screen (or, should you rotate the other way, on the right).  By default, however, the icons in the status bar are hidden save for the clock, and when the phone is charging, the battery indicator, and when you lose cellular signal, the signal strength indicator.  In order to see the other icons, you simply pull them down (or when your screen is rotated, pull them onto the screen from the left or from the right, depending on which way you have rotated your phone).  The icons remain visible for several seconds before sliding up (or left or right, whichever way is off the screen) and out of view again.  So this space is left beside the on-screen keyboard so that you can pull those status indicators onto your screen without having to move or close the keyboard, which is great!  Now, I have seen many people complain about the fact that the icons disappear even though the space for the status bar (and of course the non-hiding icons such as the clock) is still there.  In fact, a lot of people have speculated on why Microsoft would choose this.  I suppose if they changed this feature, people would understand why that space is there beside the keyboard.  But others seem to like the clean and uncluttered look provided by auto-hiding all but the most important status indicators.  Perhaps Microsoft could put something in the settings to allow a user to choose to keep all indicators visible always and prevent them from auto-hiding, but personally I wouldn't make use of that setting myself since I like the uncluttered look and feel.  But they should consider it (if they haven't already, that is) as it would make more people happy without upsetting those who like it as it is now.
 
Wanted to add for the sake of both the reviewer and the viewers, in regard to the camera, the pictures will probably be much clearer if you change either the anti-shake and/or the focus settings.  My WP7 device took much sharper pictures when I turned on anti-shake.  In fact, I have no idea why that isn't on by default.  However, changing the default setting is easy.  Just turn it on in the settings and then click "Save" instead of "Okay."  As far as over-exposure of the bright features in the photos, there should be a brightness setting that you can change as well; again, this made a big difference on my device.  (And, again, you can save these settings if you like them.)  You may find that you prefer not to for the sake of maintaining life-like colours, or you may actually find that reducing the default brightness slightly could actually produce more vibrant colours and contrast.  Hope that helps anyone looking at this device or using any other Windows Phone device, as well!
 
Well, I guess that's it - I've had my say, and I hope that someone out there appreciates the feedback.  I'm sure many will disagree, as well, but please don't take offense.  I am not trying to pick apart the review or discredit them at all - in fact, I appreciate, as I said, that they took the time to put together such a long review for us.  (Still would have liked a deeper look, though.)  I just didn't want viewers who may be unfamiliar with the system to be confused by those points.  Thanks again, have a wonderful day!